A-Rod helps Yankees to a ‘grand’ victory

The Yankees keep coming off the mat. After a 4-6 trip that included two losses in three games to the last-place Blue Jays, the Yankees opened the final homestand of the season in a big way with a 5-1 victory over the Giants, who are trying to stay out of last place the year after winning the World Series.

The matchup of a pair of former Cy Young Award winners, CC Sabathia and Tim Lincecum, had the potential to be a riveting a game, which it was for six innings. The Yankees broke it open in the bottom of the seventh on a record-breaking grand slam by Alex Rodriguez. Lincecum was out of the game by then, but he had put the three runners A-Rod drove home on base. Hitting Brendan Ryan with a pitch was a huge blunder by Lincecum. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s failure to complete a double play on a grounder to third by J.R. Murphy kept the inning alive, and Lincecum dug himself in deeper by walking Ichiro Suzuki.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy replaced Lincecum at that point by George Kontos, who may be a familiar name to Yankees fans. The righthander was the Yankees’ fifth-round draft choice out of Northwestern University in 2006 and pitched in seven games for them in 2011. He went to the Giants in April 2012 in the trade for catcher Chris Stewart.

Rodriguez, who had one hit in his previous 25 at-bats, was certainly overdue. He batted. 182 on the trip but did have two home runs. A-Rod drove a 2-1 fastball to right field that made a 1-1 game 5-1 Yankees lead that held up in the steady hands of David Robertson in the eighth and Mariano Rivera in a non-save situation in the ninth.

The 654th career home run for Rodriguez was his 24th with the bases loaded. That broke the tie he had for most grand slams with Lou Gehrig. This was one of those records I thought when I was a kid would never be broken.

Of course, I thought the same thing about Gehrig’s streak of 2,130 games, Babe Ruth’s home run records for one season (60) and career (714), Ty Cobb’s stolen-base marks for one season (96) and career (897), Cobb’s career standard for hits (4,189) and George Sisler’s mark for hits in a season (257).

They are all gone.

This was a record set not in some obscure game in the middle of the season but during a game in the last week for a team that is trying to win a playoff spot under increasingly difficult odds.

Sabathia bounced back after two straight losses with one of his best games of the season. This was a tight game for nearly all the time he was in it. He gave up seven hits and three walks but was helped by a couple of double plays. The Yanks turned a third double play in the eighth behind Robertson after he entered the game following a leadoff single off Sabathia.

The Yankees still need some help from other teams to make their way through this wild-card maize, but for one night at least they helped themselves.

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